The Science Behind Procrastination

The social phenomenon of procrastination is steadily becoming a topic of increasing discussion in various fields of science. Although approaches for studying it differ greatly, researchers agree it is not doing our society any favors. But might unraveling its mysteries finally help us overcome it?

From the neuropsychologists point of view, procrastination is a failure of executive function and prioritization. Social psychologists see it as an emotional intervention for avoiding stress, while evolutionary psychologists believe it might be a genetic trait.

A little-known fact is that procrastination was not brought up by the internet age, but had rather been around for centuries. This will raise suspicion in any geneticist and it is rightfully so. A study on identical and fraternal twins from 2014 showed that roughly 50% of differences in procrastination habits could be linked to differences in genetics. The study also showed a significant correlation between procrastination and impulsive behavior.

This is where it gets interesting. It turns out there might be an underlying evolutionary reason why these two traits are linked. Our ancestors were mainly focused on short-term survival and prioritizing short-term rewards combined with impulsive behavior which might have provided a competitive advantage among their peers.

Unfortunately, the modern world does not work like that, and we probably just didn’t have the time to adapt. Try to remember that before your next exam is coming up, it might just do the trick. Or take a nap and think about it afterwards, you deserve it anyway!

To find out more about the science of procrastination check out the video below:


By Luka Zupančič, MSc, University of Applied Sciences Technikum Vienna

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